As the TARDIS slid backwards in time through the vortex, Romana slipped quietly away from the console room. She retuned after a while, dressed in a soft pastel blue dress made of finely woven wool. The skirt fell to her ankles and it had long sleeves and a high neckline. Her hair was fastened in a neat roll at the back of her head.

The two men looked at her in surprise before realising that, of course, the veiled silk would not be appropriate in so many places they would visit. This outfit was demure and chaste and fitting her status.

“You look very pretty,” Julia told her as she looked up from where she sat, on the floor beside the Zero Cabinet. She had taken it upon herself to guard Chrístõ’s father against any harm that might come to him. She loved him as if he were her own father, and she wanted to take care of him when he was in need of it.

“I’m not really supposed to look pretty,” Romana answered, though not unkindly. “I have devoted my life to contemplation.”

“Well, you do, anyway,” Julia added. Romana knelt on the other side of the cabinet. She put her hands over the glass top and moved them very slowly in wide circles. Julia reached out and tried to copy her. Romana caught her hands and gently guided her.

“The objective is to create a peaceful ambience, an aura of calm all around the Cabinet. When it is opened, when we bring the previous lives of The Ambassador to his side, the aura will benefit them both. It will help the transference of the stored segments of his mind.”

Julia said nothing. But she did as Romana showed her. Chrístõ and Hext both watched them. They could sense that aura being created. It was like a cocoon being woven around the Cabinet.

“She is beautiful,” Hext said to Chrístõ telepathically, his words hidden behind a telepathic wall, not only because they didn’t want to disturb the aura, but also because he was saying something he wouldn’t want either of the women to hear. “It’s a shame she has chosen to hide herself away. She should be making a good marriage.”

There was something in the way he said that. Chrístõ looked at him and frowned.

“What?” Hext shrugged. “She is a lovely woman and from a good family. She is a little young, yet. But that’s all right. She hasn’t fully committed to the Sisterhood, has she? I should speak to her father…”

“Leave her alone,” Chrístõ told him. “She’s not for you.”

“Well, she’s not for you. You’re bonded with Julia. Romana is…”

“Is a very good friend of mine, and I respect her choice. As should you. Don’t try anything or I will…”

Hext was puzzled. Was Chrístõ jealous of his interest in Romana? Did he really want to warn him off with the kind of body language that led to fisticuffs in space port bars?

Hext backed off.

“I don’t intend to do anything. Least of all fight with you, Chrístõ. We have a hard task ahead of us. And it begins in half an hour. We should both go and change into suitable clothes.”

Romana and Julia both knew they had left the console room, but they didn’t say anything. They didn’t lose their concentration for a moment.

When the men returned to the console room, though, they both stood. Julia ran to Chrístõ, stunned to see him dressed in a uniform of dark blue jerkin and pants with a red cloak, all trimmed with gold.

“You look like a soldier,” she said. “A different sort of soldier. Before, in those battle clothes… but now…”

“This is the uniform of Rassilon’s Guard,” he said. “The army that Gallifrey used to have in my father’s youth. The Army that went to war against the Gyrewarriors of Sarre when he was the same age I am now.”

“Many of his generation went to fight,” Hext added. “The recruiting officers went to the graduating classes at the Academies and made officers of them. Your father. Mine, too. And my uncle, the late President. The Oakdaene heir – the one we are not to speak of now, Lord Ravenswode’s son. The sons of many of the Oldblood Houses, and Newblood. And thousands of Caretakers, too. Their generation fought against the Sarre as we fought against the Mallus.”

“Rassilon grant it will be the last time young men of Gallifrey have to fight such an enemy,” Romana said quietly. “May we know peace.”

“There are too many races out there that envy our power,” Hext replied. “We cannot hope for that. We went to the Sarre and fought them. Then we withdrew from the universe, put up the Transduction Barrier, and hoped the tyrants and despots would pass us by. We know, now, that they will not.”

“We have strong allies now,” Chrístõ said. “They will help protect us in future days.”

“But, Chrístõ…” Julia bit her lip fearfully as she listened to their theoretical debate about Gallifreyan defence policy. “You’ve already fought one war. And now you’re going to another.”

“We’re not going to fight,” he assured her. “We’re materialising right now on a troop ship heading to battle. But it still has a long way to go before the fight begins. We’ll be gone before then. We’re only dressed this way to be inconspicuous.”

“You don’t need us this time,” Julia asked. “Romana and me?”

“Not this time. There will be other places. For now, you two just stay here in the TARDIS and look after my father.” He hugged her before he turned and checked that they had materialised fully. Then he and Hext stepped out of the TARDIS.

It had disguised itself as an airlock.

“Nearly right,” Hext commented. “Except it’s on an inside bulkhead wall. Anyone paying attention will be suspicious. And don’t forget this IS a Gallifreyan ship. They know what a chameleon cloak is.”

Chrístõ smiled and tapped on the door. It shimmered and turned into a door marked ‘supplies’.

“Better. Now, let’s find Lieutenant Chrístõ Mian de Lœngbærrow. Junior Officer’s Mess this way…”

The ship was a very big one, the walls silver and the doors red that matched their cloaks. From his history lessons, Chrístõ knew it was called the Pride of Rassilon. It was a huge battle ship, four times the size of the Ruby of Adano. It was the last battle ship Gallifrey ever built. After this war the fleet and the army was disbanded. The Pride of Rassilon was destroyed in one of the last battles of a war that went on for decades.

But this was early in the conflict. The first troops were still on their outward journey. Everyone was confident of a clear, swift success. They were sure they were going to wear these bright, conspicuous uniforms in a victory march through the Sarre capital. They didn’t think about what the mud and dust and the bloodshed of battle would do to them.

What did it remind him of? Yes, Earth in 1914. “It’ll all by over by Christmas”.

The Junior officer’s mess was full of young men with that sort of certainty. They were all about his age, but with far less experience. Most of them were recruited directly from the graduating classes of the academies. They had a few week’s basic training before being assigned ranks which had more to do with family lineage than their skills as soldiers. Lieutenants, second Lieutenants and a couple of Captains, were at rest. Some were drinking alcohol and letting it affect them just enough to forget either homesickness or apprehension of what they were travelling to, or possibly both. Some were playing multidimensional chess, or a game called Gott which involved a pack of playing cards and really good telekinesis.

“Cheer up, Lœngbærrow,” said a young man with a lieutenant’s pips on his shoulders to one with the same rank who sat at a quiet table with a cup of cúl nut latte by his side. “We’ll all be home by Winter Solstice.”

Chrístõ Mian de Lœngbærrow looked up at the speaker. As he did so, the hologram of a woman in a white silk gown that he had created on the upturned palm of his hand dissolved. His concentration had been broken. Chrístõ had recognised her, though. Lady Lilliana d’Alba D’Argenlunna, as she would become. Chrístõ had seen a portrait of her, looking young and strikingly beautiful when he was her Lady’s Companion.

Long before then she had been his father’s sweetheart.

“She’ll be waiting for you, de Lœngbærrow,” said another man. “Your girl back home. She’ll be waiting by the window, sighing and weeping until your return!”

“Lilliana D’Argenlunna!” somebody else laughed cruelly. “She’ll be partying every night and flirting with all the younger sons of our Houses.”

“That’s not true,” Chrístõ Mian responded. “Lily would never. Yes, of course she’ll party. I wouldn’t stop her. She is a diamond. She needs to be able to sparkle and shine. But she is mine. I’ve loved her as long as I can remember. And she loves me.”

“There’s one woman to every four men on Gallifrey,” said the cruel one. “Love doesn’t come into it. If you wanted to dally with a woman like her you should have stayed home and left the fighting to those with courage.”

“Lily will wait,” Chrístõ Mian insisted. “She will wait.”

Then the other man said a word that shocked Chrístõ Mian and his son, equally, as men who had both loved Lily D’Argenlunna in different ways. Hext put a restraining arm on Chrístõ. The man who did the same for his father was the man he knew as Mai Li Tuo, then known as Lee Koschei Oakdaene, heir of that House. He was young, too, of course. He was one of those who had been given a captain’s rank. Despite that, despite friendship, despite the wisdom of that restraint, Chrístõ saw his father push him aside and square up to the other man. The others moved aside, recognising that a fight was about to start.

“Say that again,” Chrístõ Mian demanded. “Say that again about a graceful Lady of Gallifrey. And I’ll…”

“You haven’t the guts, Lœngbærrow,” replied his opponent. “Just try it.”

“Enough!” Lee demanded, stepping between the two. He pushed Chrístõ Mian behind him and faced up to the other. “Everyone calm down. Go back to what you were doing.”

“I’ll fight you as well,” said the troublemaker. “And don’t think that Captain’s insignia makes you a better man than me. You joined the same day I did. You’re no better qualified than I am. The ranks were assigned on favouritism, that’s all.”

“Sit down and calm yourself,” Lee told him. “Before you say something that really gets you in trouble.”

The other began to say something but his words were silenced by a suddenly barked order to stand to attention. Every man immediately squared his shoulders and stood straight in the same spot they were standing. That a fight was brewing was obvious from the positions of the three main players. Everyone expected Chrístõ Mian and his opponent to be punished.

Chrístõ and Hext watched in something like awe as the commanding officer walked into the mess, flanked by his adjutants, one of which had called the men to attention. Both knew his face from the history books. General Borusa. His son, who became Lord Borusa on his death, had taught both of them at the Prydonian Academy. He was a man of peace and learning. But his father was a tall, stern warrior, one of the last of his kind in a Gallifrey that was changing around him, but the man Gallifrey needed in this war. The man of the moment.

He was a man who could read a situation like this in an eyeblink.

“Lœngbærrow, you have no time to think of women now. There is an enemy to fight. Stiffen your resolve. Put away thoughts of home and comforts, kisses and caresses, until the job is done. That goes for you all. You’re all thinking of home. But it’s time to think ahead, time to be ready for hard experiences your lives so far did not prepare you for.”

The men all nodded. The General’s words went to heart. But he had more to say.

“Going into battle with untried officers, wet behind the ears, is a bad idea. But I look at you all, and I know most of you will rise to the occasion and use your gifts for the good of the men under your command and the ultimate victory. I know which of you will find courage you don’t yet know you have. I know which will find the task beyond you.” He looked at them all, and again they all took his words to heart. Then he turned and looked straight at one man.

“Ravenswode, I’ve been watching you. Provoking a hothead like Lœngbærrow into retaliating against your petty nastiness is the limit of your courage. You’ve got a wide streak of yellow in you. You’re the sort that would break in the thick of battle and get good men killed who look to you for leadership. I won’t let you do that. When we get to Sarre, you’re going to be in command of the laundry.”

“Sir… I…” Ravenswode protested weakly. His voice trailed off as the General looked him directly in the eye and simply glared with eyes that had seen battlefields before Ravenswode or any of the young officers were born.

Ravenswode tried again to speak, and failed. Nobody argued against the General. He found himself standing alone on a widening patch of floor as other officers decided they didn’t want to do the laundry alongside him. Then the General turned and looked at Chrístõ and Hext. Until then, nobody had even noticed them standing there.

“Do I know you two?” he asked.

“No, sir,” Hext answered. “We joined the ship on Karn along with the second detachment. We’re with the medical corps. We came to bring Lieutenant de Lœngbærrow to the medical centre. His file was corrupted. He has to come and give a blood test to make sure he has all the necessary inoculations.”

“Lœngbærrow, you heard the man,” The General said to him. “On the double.”

Chrístõ Mian saluted the General and stepped smartly out of the Junior Officer’s Mess. He had not been a soldier long, but he seemed to have mastered the art of keeping in step at any pace. Chrístõ and Hext did their best to emulate him. Neither had ever learnt to march formally.

“All my inoculations are in order, you know,” Chrístõ Mian said when they were out of earshot. “I was in the medical centre this morning.”

“I know that, sir,” Hext answered. “Please come with us.”

“Sir?” Chrístõ Mian looked at Hext. He had the same rank as he did. Why had he called him sir?

“Please,” Chrístõ added. “Don’t ask any more questions, yet. You’re not in any danger. But we need you to co-operate with us, just for a little while.”

They reached the ‘supply’ cupboard. Chrístõ unlocked it. Hext gently but firmly urged Chrístõ Mian towards it. He looked at the door and began to protest.

“Please,” Chrístõ repeated and pushed him through the door. They both stepped in after him and locked the TARDIS door behind them. Chrístõ Mian looked around in astonishment. Romana came towards him. She reached out her arms, her palms upwards in a gesture of friendship between Gallifreyans. He touched her hands and she radiated calm and peace to him.

“We’re sorry for the deception,” she said. “But please listen to these two now. They have something important to say. There is something we all need you to do.”

Hext explained. Chrístõ Mian listened in astonishment. He looked at the two Time Lords from his future. Then he walked across to the Zero Cabinet. He looked at Julia and Romana. They stood and stepped away. Julia went to Chrístõ’s side as his father’s youngest incarnation knelt and slid open the glass lid. He put his hands around the face of his older self and there was a sort of glow that passed from him. It took only a few minutes. Then he stood. Julia ran to the Cabinet.

“He blinked,” she cried. “He did. I am sure he did.”

“Yes,” Romana confirmed as she, too went to the Cabinet. “There would be some brain activity. Not enough, yet. There is a long way to go.”

“He is me… in a later incarnation.” Chrístõ Mian looked down at his other self. “That means…I must survive this war.” He looked around at Chrístõ, seeming to look at him closely for the first time. “You’re… I know you.”

“No, you don’t,” Chrístõ insisted.

“No… I don’t. Not yet. But I will…. You’re my future son? Who else would do such a duty but my own kin? So… Lily must be your mother?”

Chrístõ didn’t know how to answer that. He couldn’t lie. He couldn’t tell the truth. He blocked his thoughts desperately, glad that the symbiosis he had with his own TARDIS strengthened his mental powers while he was inside it.

“Sir,” Hext told him. “You know it is not given to any of us to know the future with too much certainty. You have our thanks for your duty here. May Rassilon go with you in the harder duty ahead of you.”

Lieutenant Chrístõ Mian de Lœngbærrow nodded and saluted them both, then he turned and stepped out of the TARDIS. Hext looked at him on the viewscreen as he walked down the corridor.

“I ought to have wiped his memory of this,” he said. “It could be dangerous. Knowing he will survive… could make him reckless…”

“No,” Chrístõ answered. “When he is a prisoner of the Sarre, being tortured daily for over a decade… the knowledge that he will survive… it may be the thing that helps him to do so. I just wish… he thinks Lady Lily is going to be his wife. I wish he wasn’t going to be disappointed. She did wait, you know. For a very long while. But everyone thought he was dead. And she found comfort in Lord D’Alba. My father remained unmarried until he met my mother….”

“Then that’s how it has to be,” Hext told him. “Next time, though, we really have to stop him realising that you’re his future son.”

“I don’t think we can stop that,” Julia said. “They looked so… not exactly alike. But the eyes… yes… they have the same eyes. And he’s bound to guess.”

“Next time, I’m going to take you out with me to find him and Chrístõ can stay put here,” Hext decided.

“No, you won’t,” Chrístõ protested. “This is my mission. You’re just along to help. It’s my father’s life at stake. Besides… he knows what we look like, now. When we meet him in future lives, he’ll know why we’re there.”

“That will make it easier, won’t it?” Julia said. “We can just ask him straight away to come with us.”

I hope so.” Chrístõ sighed wearily. He felt mentally worn out even from the first of the twelve temporal locations they had to reach. Eleven more of these, and he would be close to a brainstorm himself. Besides, he had good reasons to want this mission completed quickly.

“I’ve got to go back and teach my students in two weeks time,” he remembered. “I’m going to need a day in the Zero Room to prepare myself mentally and physically.”

“You don’t have to go back to that,” Hext told him. “Now Gallifrey is free you don’t have to live in exile.”

Julia looked at Chrístõ when Hext said that. His expression was hard to gauge, but she had the feeling that he hadn’t even thought about it until now. He had actually planned to go back to Beta Delta IV and the life he had lived there.

Which was exactly what she had hoped, too.

“We’ll be landing again in twenty minutes,” Chrístõ said. “We need to change. Julia, you might like to put a nice dress on. The location is the orbital restaurant in the Omicron Psi system. Romana, your dress will do beautifully.”